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School Community Labor Market Linkage

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Even though each labor market and community institution has its own concerns and limited social energy, the number of available institutions is great, and each has its own reasons for interest in the conduct and products of the schools. Private employers have a long-term interest in a high-quality, well-motivated labor force and share a taxpayer's interest in reduced social dependence, combined with a businessman's interest in prosperous consumers. Public agencies are also employers and are conscious of the need for public support. Antipoverty, environmental control and other special interest agencies are anxious for public understanding of the problems they address. Labor unions lament the failure of youth to be taught and to understand the essential role of employee organizations in an industrial society. Politicians are unlikely to risk alienating potential voters and children of voters. If care is taken to avoid overburdening hospitality which conflicts with primary responsibilities of these institutions, cooperation and participation can be gained if sought with diplomacy and forthrightness.

Individual workers have even more reason to cooperate and participate with the schools in career education activities than institutional representatives. They are the parents, taxpayers, and members of the neighborhood and community who share with the schools affection for young children. But in addition they are likely to have more time and are less likely called upon for community services than those who are assigned to represent their institutions. They may be also more appropriate as role models because more children are likely to be able to visualize themselves in (and ultimately achieve) those roles than the role of manager, politician, or bureaucrat. An additional value may be increased pride in them-selves as mirrored in the faces of their own children and in the children of their co-workers. For the average employee, recognition is often hard to achieve, as the following story illustrates:

George Watson left his shift at the plant and went directly to the corner tavern.  To one who listened he said, "...So what if you've made a great weld of a tough angle bend? No one gives a damn. I once suggested [at a union meeting] that we should have some kind of recognition program like the boys in business do when they sell a million dollars worth of insurance. You know, something like 'George Watson made a great weld this week,' or 'George Watson was working with this apprentice and now the kid is coming along just fine.'-People just laughed at me. 'Sit down George,' someone yelled, 'what the hell do you care? You get good pay.' I thought that was worth smashing someone's nose in. But I didn't. I went out and got drunk. There was nothing I could do."

However, even the most cooperative civic and youth-minded institution or individual can be "turned off" if not approached appropriately, or if the cooperation they extend is abused. Field trips, classroom visitors, and simulated experience may also be a waste of time and energy and boring to students if not carefully planned with objectives clearly in mind. Therefore, some words of counsel on each type of influence are appropriate here. Examples of each are provided for illustration, though we emphasize that each elementary classroom teacher can and will want to develop new projects or adapt available ones to make them more fitting to the objectives and the settings. As noted earlier, curriculum goals can be undertaken which may pursue a number of objectives simultaneously. Although the following examples have been chosen because they involve the community, employers, labor organizations, and other influences from outside the classroom in the career education process, the objective on behalf of the student may be self-awareness (career development skills), career awareness (work reality directed), academic skill acquisition, or human relations skill acquisition.


Undoubtedly, hundreds of examples exist across the nation of individual teachers who have reached out to the community, to employers, labor organizations, public agencies, and individuals for assistance in bringing the world into the classroom or making of the world a classroom. Whereas, the initiative must ordinarily be the school's responsibility, scores of business firms and, less often, other organizations and individuals have sought out the schools to offer assistance. The school is usually, but not always, the instigator of a visitation program which recognizes workers' needs to receive recognition and variety, even in the humblest of tasks.

Certain companies (e.g., the Corning Glass Works in Medfield, Massachusetts; the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; the Polaroid Corporation; and Xerox, among others) have built-in options of "sliding time" for their employees. These "sleitzits" permit workers to participate as contributors to elementary education programs during school hours by either providing work observation experiences to those children or school demonstrations of their craft or service.

Examples are frequent of the voluntary involvement of business, labor, and industry, offering their services through action methods designed to increase the visibility and importance of school-acquired skills. In candid expressions of self-interest, combined with a real sense of community responsibility, existing industry-education councils are demonstrating more than lip service to career education programs. Among those, the North Carolina Industry-Education Council (an eighty-member group made up of school and community leaders from throughout the state) makes it a practice to visit innovative career education programs nationwide. With the greater share of travel expenses borne by the business community, these individuals return to their home towns with fresh new ideas to adapt or modify for their own educational programs.

The Dallas Chamber of Commerce appointed a fifty-member team of businessmen who contributed more than $ 125,000 worth of consulting time to the Dallas school system for a school board cost of only $20,000-the salary of one full-time businessman to staff an ad hoc study on cost effectiveness. Since that time, these and other individuals, rewarded by seeing their recommendations put into practice in a system which had formerly been an unknown to them, are serving as career education resource teams to many local schools. The Skyline Advisory Board to the Dallas schools opened the largest occupational resource plant in the nation recently-where career cluster committees involving more than 220 companies and 231 private citizens have donated more than half a million dollars in time and equipment. School systems in eleven Texas townships are directly involved in this venture, which serves as a theater for continuing education.

Actually, business initiative may be better known than school initiative because the teacher has less reason and less facility for publicity. But since the curriculum itself and the identification of learning opportunities and their integration into the curriculum are an educational responsibility, the primary responsibility resides in the teachers.

Common to school-industry-community linkages, whether supported by federal or local funds-or moved by the will and local resources of the schools or by the community institutions involved-are certain broad goals which seem to exemplify a joint commitment to their young people. They are expressed as follows by spokesmen of school and community:
  1. We will maintain and authenticate the child's positive view of himself as it relates to a diversity of future working roles he might assume.

  2. We will provide experiences which permit the child to observe and react to adults who work in a variety of settings.

  3. We will provide experiences which develop skills in role-playing, drama, reporting, interviewing, listening, looking, touching, manipulating, in order that the child can more accurately approximate the connections between his current interests and the rewards and demands of a career.

  4. We will encourage self-assessment and decision-making skills through work-simulation experiences and projects developed through the vehicle of curriculum.

  5. We will support effective transition from this educational setting to the next by having children forecast the opportunities they will have to test and develop their interests in terms of their increasing capacity.
Another way to implement linkage between community and schools is being carried out in several California State Colleges through a three-week "Bridging the Gap between Industry and Education" course held during three weeks every summer. Counselors, administrators, and teachers receive three units of graduate credit for visitations to fifteen to twenty business and governmental agencies to observe the functions and work settings of those organizations. Objectives are:
  1. To acquaint participants with company or agency operations

  2. To provide participants first-hand observations of various jobs in the company or agency structure

  3. To have participants talk directly with employees about their jobs

  4. To provide participants with relevant information about jobs in local industry which might be useful in counseling students

  5. To acquaint participants with specific skills and qualifications needed in various jobs

  6. To afford participants opportunities to realize some of the problems of local industry and thereby develop more cooperative attitudes toward the world of business

  7. To afford participants opportunities to develop contacts in local industry who might be called upon for further information
Most agencies are provided a list of these objectives, and both class participants and community participants evaluate the extent to which the objectives were achieved.

These are some of the many ways in which the school and com-munity can become linked in a common effort-the making of relevant education through career education. There is a variety of ways in which this link has been accomplished. One obvious way is to have someone research the community and find people representing many different occupations who are willing to talk to youngsters, and then publish the list. There are two obvious problems with this method. One is that teachers tend to call the first person on the list. This person soon becomes overextended and the others on the list are never involved. Another obvious problem is that the material soon becomes outdated and is no longer usable.

Another way to maintain a school-community linkage is to have career fairs where many people representing many different jobs come together in an auditorium and groups of students talk to those they are interested in. With this method there is very little connection between what is happening in school and the information they receive from the community speakers. It is not integrated into the entire curriculum, and that after all is the essence of a comprehensive career education program.

Another major problem is organization. Several counties in California and in other parts of the nation have developed a Career Information Center which, in addition to providing career information to students, keeps an up-to-date file of community resources. A teacher may call one telephone number, and a technician who provides the service can arrange for a speaker to be in the classroom on any date. The technician keeps track of the number of calls to each community resource person and can see that no one person is overworked. The phone can be placed on an automatic answering and coding device, which means that the teacher can call between 5 P.M. and 8 A.M. and leave a recorded message that the technician can carry out during working hours.

Another aspect of this center is that students can talk to the technicians about career information. The technician has available the most current written career information and can discuss this with the student. If the technician is unable to answer some questions, the student can be put on "hold" while the technician calls a person working at that job in the community, and then puts the student and worker in direct communication in a "conference call." Elementary school teachers have used a telephone amplifier during such a call so that the entire class could talk to some worker on his job site.

It is necessary of course to continue to keep an extensive list of community resource people. The communities' service clubs are an excellent resource. Usually these clubs have a vocational guidance committee which is cooperative in getting the names of club members who will act as career counselors. If the center does not have the name of someone who represents an occupation that a teacher wants, then the technician uses the yellow pages of the telephone directory.
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